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Chris Kavan's Movie Reviews (3346)

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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald 
The Convoluted Mess of Grindelwald
2.5/4 stars

I feel like you need a primer going into this Fanastic Beasts sequel, as the film jumps around to so many characters, many with little to no introduction, while barely seeming to move the overall Fantastic Beasts story forward - until a pretty good end with a left-field twists.

Crimes of Grindelwald is a bit of a mess. We get pretty much every character from the first film, along with some new faces, but many of which barely make an impact. Jude Law is a good choice to play the young Albus Dumbledore, who, like Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, is bad about getting a clear point across. ZoŽ Kravitz is also a high point in the story as the outcast Leta Lestrange who found a companion at Hogwarts in a young Newt Scamander but ultimately wound up with his brother, the Auror Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner). Turner isn't given much to do with his role, neither is Victoria Yeates - who shows up briefly as Newt's assistant Bunty or Claudia Kim, who plays Nagini, a cursed human destined to ultimately turn into an animal (a snake - as we know will one day be one of the horcruxes that Voldemort entrusts - and meet her ultimate fate at the hands of Neville Longbottom) or the many random followers of Grindelwald (Johnny Depp, in a somewhat underwhelming performance).

The film opens on a decent note - with Grindlewald about to leave the American prison for England, with Seraphina Picquery (Carmen Ejogo) more than happy to be rid of him - she mentions how persuasive he was with some of the guards - so much so they had to remove his tongue. But, wouldn't you know, not before he managed to sway Abernathy (Kevin Guthrie) who is so enraptured by the man he helps secure his escape. The opening scene is replete with magic, creatures and one of the first of many twists. We soon catch up with Newt, who has banned from travel following his U.S. jaunt, and he is given a reprieve - if he will only join his brother and the Aurors. But Newt is like Switzerland - he doesn't want to pick sides and, thus, remains grounded. But not for long, for his old friend Dumbledore recruits him to go to Paris, where he learns his old pal Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) is not dead, but is squarely in the sights of Grindelwald - who believes the boy will fulfill some prophecy.

Before he leaves he finds unexpected guests in Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) the latter of which is clearly under some kind of charm spell. It turns out while madly in love, Jacob refuses to marry Queenie because he knows that in doing so, she would be all but exiled from the magic community. Queenie also runs off to Paris as that is where her sister, Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) is also on assignment - also on the trail of Credence.

Thus out whole gang eventually finds themselves in Paris, where things come to a head, a lot of people die and Grindelwald pulls out an impressive rabbit out of his hat before nearly destroying the entire city. Luckily our favorite Sorcerer's Stone alchemist, Nicolas Flamel (Brontis Jodorowsky) is there to lend a creaky hand.

The effects are still impressive - and there is fun to be had, but also just some questionable filler. Like the whole scene with Bunty and the Kelpie underwater dragon. Yes, it's another fantastic beast, but has little to do with much of anything. Also, I had an issue with Queenies whole arc - that SPOILER - had her join Grindelwald's side because she believes it's the only way she will be able to marry Jacob despite the fact that Grindelwald states multiple times that he thinks muggles, if not killed outright, will essentially be slave labor once the pure blood wizards take over. And Tina's reason for being mad at Newt over a case of mistaken Scarmander nuptials? Also kind of dumb. Leta's story about an estranged brother is slightly more plot-relevant, but even this big reveal feels somewhat muted.

The story just meanders here and there, picking up random threads and characters - throwing in a cute Chinese beast, the trinket-loving Niffler and the lock-picking bowtruckle to live up the first part of the title. The movie is a lot darker than the first film as well, as Grindelwald doesn't shy away from casual murder (including a baby) while presenting a grim look into the future. The set-up actually leaves me a bit more excited about the future of the series, but, man, the slog to get there is a bit much. Plus, I'm not even going to get into all the stuff that seemingly contradicts or messes with the timeline of the Harry Potter series.

All in all, Crimes of Grindelwald is more for die hard fans than casual moviegoers. Even my dad, who has seen the entire series, felt a bit lost and I'm sure a good chunk of the general audience felt the same way.

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